The NT government will conduct a risk assessment and develop a treatment plan to return a mentally impaired Aboriginal woman home to Alice Springs after 18 months in a Western Australia prison.
Born with foetal alcohol syndrome, Roseanne Fulton was found unfit to stand trial after she was arrested on driving charges in 2012.
WA’s Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board placed her in a Kalgoorlie prison, despite her not being convicted, until suitable accommodation could be found.
The 24-year-old’s legal guardian, former NT police officer Ian McKinlay, authored a 100,000-strong petition on change南宁夜生活, calling for action and welcomed the review but said Ms Fulton was representative of a national shame.
“Around Australia, governments have for the last decade been using prisons as a cheap alternative to providing proper facilities for cognitively impaired indigenous Australians,” Mr McKinlay told AAP.
“Because it’s been a silent minority, they’ve been getting away with it.”
He previously accused the NT Attorney-General and Health Minister of bungling the issue, and said it was within the NT’s powers to facilitate her release.
The NT government reneged on a promise to place Ms Fulton in a secure facility in Alice Springs last month, saying two male clients at the facility posed a risk to her, which Mr McKinlay dismissed as “nonsense”.
NT Minister for Health Robyn Lambley told Parliament on Tuesday night that she wanted “to set the record straight and dispel some of the mistruths that have circulated on what is a very emotional issue and one in which the NT government takes its obligations very seriously”.
Ms Fulton has been under a guardianship order since January 2009 and had a troubled life in Alice Springs.
“She continually ran away from supported care accommodation arrangements and would end up in the Todd River bed, where she traded sexual favours for access to drugs and alcohol,” Ms Lambley said.
While in WA, she stole a car and committed a number of traffic offences, and in January last year she was ruled to be a risk to the community and kept in prison under a custodial order.
Ms Lambley told parliament she has requested the NT Office of Disability conduct a risk assessment and develop a treatment plan for Ms Fulton’s return to Alice Springs, which would have her “living in appropriate supported accommodation in Alice Springs, engaging with her local community and relatives, receiving the care and support she requires and otherwise participating in normal life to the best of her ability”.
Mr McKinlay has lobbied the federal government to legislate to stop prisons being used to house cognitively impaired people.
“It is completely unsatisfactory that anyone should be in a jail when they’re not ever going to be charged,” Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion said.
Mr Scullion told AAP that the government had been in negotiations “to get her back to Alice Springs, but they actually don’t have the level of amenity there that they have in Kalgoorlie”.
Ms Lambley said that, until all options are considered, it’s in Ms Fulton’s best interests to remain in Western Australia.